>I’ve put together a list of some brands I thought were particularly impressive this year. Note that many of the links go to a retailer’s site rather than the manufacturer’s; that’s because most of the manufacturers have pretentious “branding” websites with vacuous Flash intros and lousy navigation. The retailers, by contrast, want to sell things so they have sites that actually work.
Corso Como. American-designed, Brazilian-made, these leather boots and shoes have a high-fashion look but quite a bit of comfort. High-quality materials put the prices in the $100 to $260 range. Look for them online at BarefootTess.com, Nordstrom.com, Piperlime.com, and Zappos. In Seattle, you’ll find them at local boutiques such as Nuovo Modo in downtown Seattle and the new Lambs Ear Shoes in Fremont. Note: You may want to size up a half size for these. And be sure to check for online sales.
Runners-up: Born (for comfort and quirky good looks) and Sofft (for a comfortable high heel; but be aware, you want to be sure to try on a pair half a size down…in the larger size, feet can tend to slide forward into the roomy toe box, leaving a gap at the heel).
Mandarina Duck. This Italian company’s patented fabrics are striking and unusual, with bags featuring a mix of leather and nylon-type materials. Even leather bags are likely to feature a mix of sueded and finished leathers, plus plenty of pockets, sturdy construction, and models that magically expand via snaps and zippers. All this styling comes at a price ($200 – $400). Do beware of the synthetic fabric bags which, while resembling backpacks, are neither waterproof nor stain-resistant.
Runners-up: Matt & Nat vegan bags (at Shoefly and Sole Food in Seattle) and Libaire (online) for sturdy bags in rich-looking pebble leather.
Wacoal. “Sure they fit great, but they’re so expensive,” you say. That’s no longer the case. You can find most styles of these $60 bras for $20-$25 (new with tags) on eBay—so try them on at Nordstrom, buy one, and get the rest online. (If you are someone who has long avoided underwires as being uncomfortable, a Wacoal can probably get you to reconsider.) To see Wacoal’s vastly expanded catalog of styles, for all styles and shapes, visit the major online lingerie sites like Bare Necessities and Fig Leaves, which have a better selection than Nordstrom. Fig Leaves has one fancy Wacoal model selling for just $15 this week.
Now that sheer pantyhose have been declared hopelessly out of style, grownups can enjoy wearing opaque tights. Unfortunately, my top picks are devilishly hard to find: The synthetic-blend tights from Hot Sox. Nordstrom carries only the metallic version, so check out local shoe boutiques (where I just ordered two pair).
This is all about nightgowns and loungers, like the gorgeous lightweight cotton knits at Soma. Look for the long, slim V-neck loungers, sometimes with matching robes. These are not big, baggy t-shirts. (Do, however, watch out for the Soma sleepware that isn’t machine washable; who wants to hand wash a bulky bathrobe?)
I tried quite a few styles and brands of jeans this year, and didn’t come up with any winners. I can, however, recommend Eddie Bauer‘s Classic Fit bootcut corduroys (the plain ones, not the fussy-looking embroidered ones). Eddie Bauer offers several fits in tall, regular and petite, including the contemporary Classic Fit with has a modern (slightly low) waistband. For those of you hunting for jeans, it’s always worth checking out the style advice (based on your measurements and preferences) at Zafu.com.
No nominees in this category, I’m afraid. I didn’t like the styling of The Territory Ahead three-button cashmere (too boxy). Macy’s Charter Club house brand cashmere seemed narrow and tube-like and bunched up on the shoulders (but better than nothing—I bought one). Eddie Bauer didn’t have a single Merino wool sweater for women (it had winter sweaters made of cotton, a real mountaineering faux pas!). I thought the Sundance Catalog and Garnet Hill cashmere sweaters were a bit overpriced (and the Garnet Hill v-neck had one of those low, low necklines). The styling on the L. L. Bean cashmeres made them look like sweatshirts. J. Jill had novelty rather than classic sweaters (mostly cotton, some in wools). So, I have to confess, I got all my sweaters this year on eBay and at consignment shops. I did, however, order a Red Moon brand gray cashmere jersey at the Amazon.com sale this week, so will report that later. Does anyone have any suggestions?